Led by favorable stock market activity and a reputation still unmarked by the scandal, Fidelity Investments witnessed a 23% surge in net income in 2004.

Profits at Boston-based Fidelity rose to $1.1 billion in 2004, versus $908 million in 2003, according to a recent report from Reuters. That's the third-best year ever for the Boston-based company.

Fidelity's average assets under management in 2004 grew to $1.0 trillion, an 18% hike compared to 2003.

"About two-thirds of that performance was probably market activity. The rising tide lifted their assets," said Jim Lowell, editor of Fidelity Investor, an independent newsletter.

"They're also still benefiting from not having been tainted by the mutual fund scandal and are seen not only as a virtuous place, but as a core area of strength in still uncertain times," Lowell told Reuters.

Fidelity brass, however, promised not to rest on it laurels. In a letter to investors, company Chairman Edward Johnson vowed to keep a close eye on costs as the company seeks to grow its business further in 2005. Specifically, Johnson said the company would reign in expenses and further leverage the benefits of technology, a key driver behind Fidelity's recent fee cutting.

In related news, Fidelity reported that it added more than 21,000 new advisers in 2004. It also expanded its institutional client base and launched nine new funds. The complex said it ended 2004 with a record 47,000 advisers distributing Fidelity Advisor Funds, which is an increase of 26% versus 2003.

On the institutional insurance side of the business, it added two new clients and expanded 30 of its relationships with the addition of new funds to existing platforms and products.

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